LLOYD Greenup County High School remains the Gold Standard of cheerleading.

On Sunday the 20-member squad won its 16th national title at the Universal Cheerleading Association competition at Disney’s ESPN World of Sports.

“We’re just thrilled!” said 40-year coach Candy Berry, the cheerleading guru who has headed the Musketeers to 37 UCA competitions.

Under Berry’s watchful eye, GCHS is now known not just locally but nationally for excellence in cheerleading.

Of course, with great success comes great determination.

Berry said the squad started practicing hard after Christmas break, consisting of everyday practices except for Sundays. Even after cheering at home basketball games the squad would run through their routine time after time to get it down perfectly.

The win was even more special to the six seniors on the team. They experienced their last competition as a Musketeer with a second national title in three years.

“We were not going to let them come off the floor and not be satisfied,” said Berry.

The veteran coach made sure her seniors took in the moment. “I said ‘No one can ever take this feeling away from you,’” she said.

Senior Kayleigh Carver reflected on the hard work, saying that it’s paid off. She claimed she doesn’t know what to do with herself now since the team was putting in so much practice time.

However, the countless hours have provided her with a memory that will last a lifetime.

“This is a great feeling that I can take with me for the rest of my life,” said Carver.

Being among the top teams for so many years has drawn attention to the squad.

Senior Rikki Riffe called her teammates “cheerlebrities,” saying that other teams are well aware of their successful track record.

Riffe said others might see the team as cocky, but she explained that they to win as badly as anyone else.

GCHS’s perfect routine on Sunday was proof.

“It just feels great,” said Riffe about the victory.

Katie Stephenson, another senior, said the overall experience was breathtaking and means so much to her. She added that the win came as a shock.

“I was kind of surprised because you don’t know what judges will give you,” she said.

Greenup County was third last year after winning it all in 2015.

None of the cheerleaders take any of the championships for granted.

Senior Taylor Gilliam was a sophomore and watched the team perform as a competitive alternate in the front row. On Sunday, though, she was actually out on the mat competing, making the triumph feel entirely different.

“I got to experience it all as a team. It’s the best experience in the world,” she said.

Senior Aimee Riggs, like many of her cheermates, has a family tradition of cheering at Greenup County.

Riggs said her sister, a former cheerleader, always told her about the feelings of winning a title. Riggs truly never understood what she was talking about until it happened to her.

“It was so great,” she said.

Reflecting on the experience, Berry had a list of those to thank for the team’s accomplishment.

“I want to thank God first for giving us this opportunity and then my family and my administration,” she said, adding that the team has received strong support from the school administration and school district.

She also credited the cheerleading coaching staff and trainers for doing their part to make it happen.

Assistant coaches Cayce Hayden, Rhonda Poplin and Allison Rowe and athletic trainer Amy Crum were instrumental in the team’s success, Berry said.

“We couldn’t have won it without them. They are all such good coaches and dedicated people.”

Other team members include: senior Terah Waugh; juniors Hannah Bazler, Ashley Burgess, Nikki Ferguson, Lily Grant; sophomores Skylar Craft, Brooklyn Leslie. freshmen Callie Angel, Carley Brown, Kyra Craft, Abby Quillen, Desiree Riggs, Sophia Shoemaker, Jenna Stephens and eighth-grader Chloe Salser

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radkins@dailyindependent.com